Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., got into a heated argument during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting on Wednesday over the Biden administration’s foreign policy in Egypt.
Menendez told Cruz to not “put words” in his mouth when Cruz said the chair had “observed that, yes, the Biden administration is holding hostage $130 million for Egypt and demanding that 16 people be released from prison.”
Menendez, the chair of the committee, denied he had “recognize[d]” that, adding “Don’t put words in my mouth that I didn’t say.”
“I did not say anybody was holding anyone hostage,” Menendez later clarified.
Cruz asked Menendez if he denied the administration was withholding $130 million in military aid to Egypt to which Menendez said he didn’t need to be cross-examined by the Texas senator.
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“You’re cross-examining me,” Cruz replied.
Menendez accused Cruz of making a misstatement and pounded on his gavel while Cruz continued to speak.
“The Senator will withhold,” Menendez ordered while gaveling. “How about you withhold?” Cruz retorted.
Menendez then threatened to adjourn the meeting while Cruz continued to accuse him of interrupting him.
The New Jersey Democrat also claimed Cruz had started a fight with him for his social media channels. “I know you want to do this for your YouTube, for your presidential campaign,” he said.
“Are you going to allow me to speak?” Cruz asked after more than a minute of talking over each other. “That’s very kind of you,” he said, after Menendez told him to continue. “And I will say Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your lecture on comedy.”
At issue was the Biden administration’s September decision to withhold the aid on the condition that the Middle Eastern country improve its record on human rights, including the release of 16 unidentified prisoners.
Cruz said he would speak more “precisely,” claiming Menendez had said he should be “satisfied” that the names of the Egyptian prisoners were classified and being withheld from the American people.
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He called the hold on the aid “undoubtedly a quid pro quo.”
“’You will get your $130 million that Congress has appropriated when you release these 16 individuals from prison,’” Cruz said.
He said he wanted to know if the prisoners were terrorists, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, American citizens or if they had committed violent crimes. “These are reasonable questions the American people would like to know.”